British Prime Minister David Cameron met Monday with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a week after telling British MPs that the United Kingdom would to accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees through the year 2020. Meanwhile, European Union leaders held emergency talks Monday to determine how to settle some 160,000 refugees throughout the continent, including the creation of refugee camps in Italy and Greece.
Cameron’s visit to Lebanon was his first as prime minister. "I wanted to come here to see for myself and to hear for myself stories of refugees," he said. The refugees he saw were in a camp in the Bekaa Valley, an area bordering Syria packed with nearly 400,000 Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
As Europe grapples with an unprecedented influx of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, the purpose of Cameron’s visit was to make the case that British resources were better spent on refugees in countries neighboring their homes, like Lebanon, to deter them from seeking new lives and taking risky journeys to Europe. Cameron visited at least two sites, a school and a refugee camp, that supported by British aid, the BBC reported.
I'm at a refugee camp in Lebanon, hearing some heartbreaking stories. British aid is doing so much to help. pic.twitter.com/dqpCfDgVKM
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 14, 2015
But refugee aid agencies and workers say that the cash and aid they’re getting is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Just 33 percent of the United Nations refugee agency’s requested aid for Syrian refugees had been met, the agency said in late August. In Lebanon, 70 percent of Syrian families live on less than $3.84 a day.
Cameron said that aid from the U.K. had helped dissuade refugees from trying to immigrate to Europe. Earlier in September, the country pledged 100 million pounds, or $154 million, in aid to help Syria and neighboring countries.
"I want to focus on how we help Syrian refugees here in Lebanon, in Jordan, how we make sure we discourage people from making this dangerous journey to Europe but instead we take people from these camps and we make them welcome in the United Kingdom, in our country."